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State attorney general launches investigation into Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office

Agency has faced much criticism under leadership of Sheriff Laurie Smith

The Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose on March 11, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

State Attorney General Rob Bonta on Wednesday announced his office is opening a civil rights investigation into the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office over allegations that include misconduct in county jails and resistance to oversight.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith. Embarcadero Media file photo.

The Sheriff's Office has faced much criticism under six-term Sheriff Laurie Smith. In August, the county Board of Supervisors gave a unanimous vote of no confidence for Smith that alleged jail mismanagement, a "pay-to-play" scheme involving gun permits issued by her office and the death or serious injury of inmates, resulting in settlements that have cost the county millions of dollars.

"I have always welcomed any external review of the Sheriff's Office and we will immediately open all records," Smith said Wednesday in response to the attorney general's announcement. "I have great confidence in the Attorney General's Office and I believe they will provide the expertise for a fair and impartial investigation. We remain focused on our mission, which is to continue to provide the highest level of public safety services."

Bonta said in a statement that there is a clear "lack of trust" in the community toward the Sheriff's Office regarding "deeply concerning allegations" that "have been repeatedly voiced by elected leaders, editorial boards, community members, and more."

He said his investigators will look into whether there is a "pattern or practice" of unconstitutional conduct. The attorney general's office is authorized to investigate whether a law enforcement agency has a pattern or practice of violating federal or state law and can compel the correction of systemic violations.

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"We will be thorough and impartial in our efforts to ensure that the civil rights of the people of Santa Clara County are respected," he said.

Anyone with information relevant to the attorney general's investigation is asked to email [email protected]

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State attorney general launches investigation into Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office

Agency has faced much criticism under leadership of Sheriff Laurie Smith

by Bay City News Service /

Uploaded: Wed, Jan 19, 2022, 3:18 pm
Updated: Thu, Jan 20, 2022, 10:11 am

State Attorney General Rob Bonta on Wednesday announced his office is opening a civil rights investigation into the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office over allegations that include misconduct in county jails and resistance to oversight.

The Sheriff's Office has faced much criticism under six-term Sheriff Laurie Smith. In August, the county Board of Supervisors gave a unanimous vote of no confidence for Smith that alleged jail mismanagement, a "pay-to-play" scheme involving gun permits issued by her office and the death or serious injury of inmates, resulting in settlements that have cost the county millions of dollars.

"I have always welcomed any external review of the Sheriff's Office and we will immediately open all records," Smith said Wednesday in response to the attorney general's announcement. "I have great confidence in the Attorney General's Office and I believe they will provide the expertise for a fair and impartial investigation. We remain focused on our mission, which is to continue to provide the highest level of public safety services."

Bonta said in a statement that there is a clear "lack of trust" in the community toward the Sheriff's Office regarding "deeply concerning allegations" that "have been repeatedly voiced by elected leaders, editorial boards, community members, and more."

He said his investigators will look into whether there is a "pattern or practice" of unconstitutional conduct. The attorney general's office is authorized to investigate whether a law enforcement agency has a pattern or practice of violating federal or state law and can compel the correction of systemic violations.

"We will be thorough and impartial in our efforts to ensure that the civil rights of the people of Santa Clara County are respected," he said.

Anyone with information relevant to the attorney general's investigation is asked to email [email protected]

Comments

Ben Z.
Registered user
another community
on Jan 19, 2022 at 4:38 pm
Ben Z., another community
Registered user
on Jan 19, 2022 at 4:38 pm

Bonta said in a statement that there is a clear "lack of trust" in the community toward the Sheriff's Office regarding "deeply concerning allegations" that "have been repeatedly voiced by elected leaders, editorial boards, community members, and more."

I applaud Mr. Bonta for making that statement. I previously made a complaint with County Counsel regarding a failure to protect my children from sexual abuse. The allegations are quite serious, but the county refuses to even acknowledge that I made said complaint, let alone respond.

I asked Mr. Bonta personally for help. I hope that he responds in the same manner.


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